Now that the dust settles on a roller-coaster of a season that saw young talent such as Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov moved, it’s time to see what new head coach, Dan Bylsma, has available.
Evander Kane – Ryan O’Reilly – Tyler Ennis
After recovering from surgery, Kane is poised to make his Sabres debut this October. I expect him to notch at least 20 goals with the quality line-mates he is playing with. Until Jack Eichel is ready, Ryan O’Reilly will likely hold down the top line. The Lady Byng winner led the league in takeaways and is known for his elite two-way game reminiscent of Patrice Bergeron. Expect him to be around the 50-60 point range. Finally comes Tyler Ennis. Ennis is short on size at 5’9 165lbs, but defies his size by playing like a player of a 6′ 200lb frame. He posted his third 20 goal season while leading the team in scoring at only 25 years old. I believe Ennis has the talent to pot 30 goals and 60 points this season. Watch out for this top line.
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Zemgus Gigensons
Moulson has left a lot to be desired after being acquired in the Thomas Vanek trade back in 2013. His regression can likely be credited to the lack of competent players to play alongside. On this line, however, he does have two players with extremely high ceilings to have me expect him to hit 20 goals. Jack Eichel has the chance to make a giant impact with the team this season. The team should start him out here and come Christmas time if he’s ready, swap him with O’Reilly, I think he will be a Calder trophy finalist; finishing somewhere around 50 points. Zemgus Girgensons already has made an appearance in the NHL All-Star Game at only age 21. Last season, an injury toward the end had him out until the end while prior to injury, he was poised to lead the team in scoring with 15 goals and 15 assists in 61 games. I think the Latvian Locomotive has it in him to reach 20 goals and 45 points this season. This could be a very solid line if the players develop chemistry.
Jamie McGinn – Sam Reinhart – Brian Gionta
McGinn was regarded by many as a “throw-in” to the Ryan O’Reilly trade. In my opinion, he is much more. Injuries hampered his 2014-15 season, but previously, he recorded 19 goals on the Colorado Avalanche. Jamie can slot anywhere on this line-up whether it be the top line or fourth line and not look out of place. Assuming he gets some time in the top 6, 15 goals would be reasonable. In this scenario, I have Reinhart making the team. His performance in the scrimmage suggests he’s a different player than he was in his nine game stint last season as he put on more weight and stands at 6’1 190lbs. I think with his elite hockey sense, he can notch 10 goals and 40 points here possibly. Captain Brian Gionta is steadily declining, but can be a compliment to Reinhart and McGinn. He is very undersized at 5’7, but could notch 10 goals and 45 points here. It’s a pretty solid third line if Reinhart performs well.
Nicolas Deslauriers – David Legwand – Marcus Foligno
Nic Deslauriers led all rookies and ninth overall in hits while also being one of the few on the team to suit up in all 82 games. He brings physicality to the line-up while also not being afraid to drop the gloves. I don’t expect much offense from him so 5 goals and 15-20 points seems accurate. David Legwand was acquired from the Robin Lehner trade and as of now is the only player on the roster with over 1,000 games played in his career. I think he’ll be a great influence on Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart to teach them how to be a pro. If he is on the fourth line, I would expect numbers slightly higher than Deslauriers’. Marcus Foligno rounds out the line-up here. He has a lot to prove still at a young age. I think the team should put him here to start and let him work his way up the roster. He is another strong physical presence who can put up decent numbers. If he does in fact move up, 10 goals and 35 points would be a good bounce-back season for him.
Johan Larsson, Cody McCormick, Jerry D’Amigo
I really liked what Larsson had shown last season and wouldn’t place him in a fourth line role. I would give him some time on Rochester’s top line and have him as the team’s first forward call-up. D’Amigo could also get some AHL time but it wouldn’t hurt the team to have him up here as a healthy scratch. I’d say McCormick stays with the team the whole season as a healthy scratch.
Ultimately, this is the strongest Sabres team on forward since our 06-07 team. Thanks for reading. Make sure to leave your thoughts down below and follow us on Twitter @hockeyscoopblog.